Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Baby Sophie wins donors for Tiny Lives

Francois Le Goff,


Action Medical Research launched its first DRTV appeal in April to raise funds for and awareness of its Touching Tiny Lives campaign. The appeal generated more than 150 phone enquiries, from which the charity recruited 100 donors, who signed up to an average monthly donation of £5.


Touching Tiny Lives is one of AMR's biggest fundraising campaigns, and aims to raise £3m for research into premature birth and life-threatening pregnancy. The charity carries out research into many other areas, including cerebral palsy and Huntington's disease. It is credited with discovering the link between taking folic acid and preventing spina bifida in the 1970s.

AMR thought DRTV would be the right medium to recruit new supporters, given the fact that childbirth is obviously something that affects people from all classes and all walks of life.

The advert was produced by Space City Productions in London, and Anderson Manning Associates, a marketing agency based in Northern Ireland, handled telephone calls. It ran from the beginning of April until 3 June.

How it worked

The appeal comprised a 60-second and a 90-second advert, both featuring the challenges faced by premature babies and some of the work currently done to help them. The voiceover was by presenter Carol Vorderman.

The advert told the story of Sophie, a baby born prematurely who weighed just over one pound. It asked viewers to call a freephone number and pledge a regular gift by direct debit, with a suggested donation of £3 a month, to help babies such as Sophie.

It was broadcast on a range of cable and satellite channels in the UK, and on a limited number of time slots on Channel 4. These channels were known to have a responsive track record for DRTV advertising campaigns.


The advert generated more than 150 phone enquiries. The most successful channels were Classic FM TV, UK Living and UK Gold. More than 75 per cent of the 100 people who signed up to a monthly direct debit scheme were female. The average gift was just over £5 a month, and many of the callers claimed an affinity with the Touching Tiny Lives campaign rather than AMR as a whole.

A spokeswoman said: "We have learnt that channels with lower audience levels tend to be the most responsive. So it will be challenging to recruit large numbers of regular givers through this medium. We also know what average gift value we can expect, which will help us improve future appeals." She added that the appeal provided a broader base of public support.

EXPERT VIEW - Sean Kinmont, creative director, 23red

I have to admit to not knowing anything about Action Medical Research or its Touching Tiny Lives campaign before watching this advert.

This is not surprising, I suppose, because I don't have kids and have no real experience of any of these issues. Yet even from this relative emotional distance I found the cause compelling.

The strength of the advert is the way it tells this story in a simple, emotive way without over-dramatising it. It features a tiny baby called Sophie, who was born prematurely and weighed just over one pound. It goes on to tell you that one premature baby like Sophie is born every 11 minutes. All the emotional triggers are in place. At this point, two female creatives watching the ad over my shoulder were in tears.

From a more rational standpoint, I felt the communication was let down by a vagueness as to what AMR is and the relevance of its research. It's interesting that many of the donors responding to this ad claimed an affinity with the Touching Tiny Lives campaign rather than with AMR as a whole.

Although the advert features competent-looking researchers and has Carol Vorderman as the presenter, it fails to establish the organisation's impressive research reputation. This is, after all, the organisation that discovered the link between folic acid and preventing spina bifida in the 70s. For me, this would have been the final push to make the call.

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